LINCOLN — Before a brutal, four-game stretch of crossover games, Lincoln High was sitting nicely atop the Division I-North standings with an unbeaten 8-0 mark.
It’s a little different now.
Facing some of the upper-echelon of squads from I-South and I-Central over the last week, the Lions suffered their third setback in the last four games Tuesday afternoon with a 5-1 loss to Bishop Hendricken at Chet Nichols Field. The Hawks belted out 11 hits and had a quality start from lefty Tim Pannone to improve to 9-2 for the spring.
Lincoln dropped to 8-3 and is tied with Moses Brown (a 4-3 winner over Chariho on Tuesday) for first in the division. The Lions defeated Portsmouth (2-7 in I-South) this past Saturday, but lost their other two games last week to North Kingstown (9-2 in I-South) and Cranston West (7-3 in I-Central).
“In the crossovers, I think Cumberland and us have the most difficult schedule,” assessed Lincoln coach Ed Hunt. “But like I said to our kids we are going to go back to our division rivals and we have to make those games count again. If we beat those team twice in our division we can win the division. That’s the goal. Hopefully, we’ll improve as time goes on.”
Lincoln’s biggest problem early in the game was dealing with Pannone. Before leaving after the fourth inning with an 85-pitch count, the junior southpaw stymied the Lions bats, striking out eight and yielding just three hits.
“He threw hard,” Hunt said. “He kind of picked up in the first inning and started striking guys out. His out-pitch was a high fastball. It worked originally and then we kind of laid off. He had a hard curveball and we got three lefties in the lineup. We are not accustomed to seeing real quality, left-handed pitchers. He had three pitches going for him today. He had a good, giddy-up on his fastball, he had a good curveball and a changeup…He was very challenging.”
“He did a great job,” Hendricken coach Ed Holloway added. “This was his first start. He threw the ball really well for us and did a great job.
The Hawks’ offense made it easy for Holloway to make the decision to take Pannone out as it held a 3-1 lead at that point. Hendricken went to work right away on Lion starter Zach Perry with three hits in the top of the first, including an RBI double by Pannone and a run-scoring sacrifice fly from Bobby Indeglia. The Hawks tacked another run in the second with Baron driving home Conte (single) with a base hit.
Lincoln was able to chop into the deficit in the bottom of the third with speedy Matt Sorkin (2-for-3) leading off the frame with a double to shallow left field. Tyler Santaniello plated Sorkin with a two-out, RBI single.
Hendricken caught a break in the fifth to break the game open. With two outs and Chase Sullivan on second after a fielder‘s choice and a stolen base, P.J. Murray hit a high fly ball to left field that hit the top of the glove of outfielder Dan Cameron. The error allowed Sullivan to score and then designated hitter Mike Flood put the Hawks up by its eventual 5-1 score with a run-scoring double to center.
“My starting leftfielder (Max Blais) sprained a finger in a game Saturday night against Portsmouth sliding into third base,” Hunt said. “He’s a sophomore out there. It looked like he had a good beat on it. He just misjudged it a little bit and it went off the top of his glove. That kind of put it away for us.
Hendricken was able to maintain its cushion with quality relief pitching from Nick Panarello and Cody Perras, who retried the final nine batters. The Hawks, who went into the contest after dropping a 9-0 loss to North Kingstown this past Saturday, had an error-less defense.
“We play a good game all-around,” Holloway said. “Coming off a tough loss to NK, I was concerned because Lincoln is an excellent team. I was concerned coming into the game, but pitching is the name of the game. Tommy did a tremendous job for us. Nick Panarello and Cody Perras did a nice job. I am really happy with the overall effort.”
Despite absorbing the loss on the mound, Hunt was pleased with the performance of Perry, who limited the Hawks to three earned runs.
“I think Perry pitched a great game,” he said. “He’s a competitor. He didn’t fold. That’s a very potent lineup. I was pleased with the fire in his belly. We just didn’t hit today.”
Lincoln will try to get back to its winning ways when it returns back to its I-North slate. The Lions face a strong Cumberland squad on Thursday night at Chet Nichols Field. The Clippers, owners of a 7-4 mark, have won four of their last five games, including victories over North Kingstown and Cranston West.
“Cumberland is a very good team,” Hunt said. “They have beaten more of the better teams than we have. I have a lot of respect for them. They hit well. If their pitching is on, we are going to have our hands full.”